You are on page 1of 10

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 156304. October 23, 2006.]


ANACLETO R. MENESES, FRANCISCO C. MENESES CECILIA C.
MENESES, RAMON M. VASCO, CARMENCITA M. VASCO-ALIVIA,
VICTOR A. MENESES, MA. ROSARIO MENESES-CARREON,
GAVINO A. MENESES, ARTEMIO A. MENESES, JR., MA. CARMEN
R. BONGGA, MA. THERESA M. RODRIGO, JACINTO M. RODRIGO,
MA. ELIZABETH M. RODRIGO, MARTIN M. RODRIGO, JOSE
ANTONIO M. RODRIGO, DOMINGO M. SALONGA, CAROLINA M.
SALONGA, CORAZON M. SALONGA, CRISTINA M. SALONGA,
CARMELITA M. SALONGA, CYNTHIA M. SALONGA and MARILYN
F. SALONGA , petitioners, vs. SECRETARY OF AGRARIAN
REFORM, LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, RODRIGO VELAYO,
ANGEL SOLIMAN, RICARDO MASASU, REGINA STA. ANA,
JUANITO CASTRO, SEVERINO LIGON, MARCELINO CUEVAS,
MANOLO
GARCIA,
RODRIGO
URBANO,
FELIX
BINUYA,
GORGONIO CATU, ERLINDA ABLAZA, IGMEDIO SANTOS,
FLORENTINA SUSPAN, PEDRO SUPAN, GABRIEL PONCE, FELIPE
PONCE, MAGNO PONCE, RELELCIO PONCE, IRENEO RAMOS,
ORLANDO TAYAO, EULALIO TRINIDAD, MOISES MORALES,
LAZARO MATIAS, FORTUNATA MANUGON, ROMEO MANUZON,
and DAMASO DURIA, respondents.
DECISION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J :
p

Petitioners were co-owners pro-indiviso of an irrigated rice land in Barangay


Batasan, San Miguel, Bulacan, measuring 60.8544 hectares and registered in the
name of their grandparents, the spouses Ramon Meneses and Carmen RodriguezMeneses. On October 21, 1972, the property was distributed to farmer-beneciaries
by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 27 (P.D. No. 27).
On July 16, 1993, petitioners led with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bulacan,
Branch 13, a complaint for determination and payment of just compensation.
Petitioners alleged that from the time the land was distributed to farmerbeneciaries in 1972 up to the time of the ling of the complaint, no payment or
rentals has been made, and titles have already been issued to the farmerbeneciaries. Petitioners also alleged that the fair market value of the property is
P6,000,000.00. 1
The farmer-beneciaries, the Land Bank of the Philippines-Land Valuation and
Landowners' Compensation III (LBP-LVLCO III), the Department of Agrarian Reform

(DAR) Secretary, and the DAR all led their respective Answers. For their part, the
farmer-beneciaries alleged that the land valuation establishing the average gross
production per hectare by the Barangay Committee on Land Production (BCLP)
based on three normal crop years before P.D. No. 27 is in accordance with the
existing guidelines and procedure on Operation Land Transfer; they have no unpaid
rentals; and jurisdiction over the case lies with the Department of Agrarian Reform
Adjudication Board (DARAB). 2
Meanwhile, the LBP-LVLCO III averred that it has been acting in good faith in
discharging its obligations, and that the computation was obtained through the
valuation processes of the DAR on lands covered by P.D. No. 27 and Executive Order
No. 228 (E.O. No. 228). The LBP-LVLCO III likewise alleged that jurisdiction over the
case lies with the DARAB. 3
The DAR Secretary, on the other hand, alleged that the valuation of the property
was pursuant to the Operation Land Transfer under P.D. No. 27 and the reckoning
date should be at the time of the taking of the property, i.e., October 21, 1972. 4
Lastly, the DAR claimed that the ling of the case is premature since there is no
valuation yet made by the DAR based on E.O. No. 228, and petitioners must
cooperate with the DAR by submitting all the necessary papers for proper valuation
and expeditious payment of the land. The DAR also claimed that it must rst
determine the valuation before resort to the court can be made. 5
Thereafter, in an Order dated June 22, 1994, the RTC dismissed the complaint for
lack of cause of action. According to the RTC, the determination of just
compensation must first be filed with the DAR and not the Special Agrarian Court. 6
Petitioners led a motion for reconsideration, which was partially granted by the
RTC in its Order dated September 7, 1994, setting aside its order of dismissal,
ordering the suspension of the proceedings and archiving the case until primary
determination has been made on the issue of just compensation. 7
On October 5, 1994, petitioners led a complaint for determination and payment of
just compensation with the DARAB. The DARAB, however, dismissed the complaint
on the ground that it has no jurisdiction to hear and decide valuation cases covered
by P.D. No. 27, as the same is within the exclusive administrative powers of the
Oce of the Secretary. 8 Because of the foregoing dismissal, petitioners led with
the RTC a motion to re-open and calendar case for hearing, 9 which was granted by
the RTC.
In an Order dated May 9, 1996, the RTC, with the agreement of the parties,
constituted Commissioners to determine just compensation, 10 but the same was
dissolved per its Report and Recommendation dated October 9, 1996, 11 as granted
by the RTC in its Order dated October 11, 1996. 12
Pre-trial was terminated on July 10, 1997, and petitioners were scheduled to
present their evidence. 13 During the hearing held on August 14, 1997, the parties
agreed as to the issue to be resolved "whether or not the plaintis [petitioners]

are entitled to just compensation as provided for in Republic Act No. 6657 (R.A. No.
6657) and the Constitution of 1987 and not P.D. No. 27 which was the basis of
valuation made by defendants Secretary of Agrarian Reform and the Land Bank of
the Philippines of the subject parcel of land which was acquired in October 21,
1972." 14 The parties were then given a period within which to e their respective
motions for judgment on the pleadings and comment/opposition thereto, after
which the case shall be deemed submitted for resolution. 15
On February 7, 1998, the RTC rendered its Decision dismissing the complaint. It was
the RTC's ruling that since the subject property was taken from petitioners on
October 21, 1972 under the DAR's Operation Land Transfer pursuant to P.D. No. 27,
then just compensation must be based on the value of the property at the time of
taking.
IDATCE

Thus, petitioners led an appeal with the Court of Appeals (CA), docketed as CA-G.R.
CV No. 60355, where petitioners prayed for a remand of the case to the RTC for
further proceedings and/or reception of evidence on the just and fair market value
of the property.
On May 30, 2002, the CA 16 rendered its Decision dismissing the appeal. 17
Petitioners led a motion for reconsideration, but the same was denied on the
grounds that it was led 44 days late and the CA found no cogent reason to reverse
or modify its Decision. 18
Hence, this petition for review on certiorari based on the following reasons:
I-

THAT THE APPEALED DECLISION (sic) IS RENDERED BY THE COURT


OF APPEALS NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH LAW OR WITH APPLICABLE
DECISIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT. 19

II -

THAT THE COURT OF APPEALS HAS DEPARTED FROM THE


ACCEPTED AND USUAL COURSE OF JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS OR HAS
SANCTIONED SUCH DEPARTURE BY THE LOWER COURT. 20

Petitioners argue that the CA erred in sustaining the propriety of the motion for
judgment on the pleadings led by respondents with the RTC. It was the CA's ruling
that the motion for judgment on the pleadings was proper since respondents can be
considered as plaintis in a counter-claim. Petitioners also impute error in the CA's
ruling that the RTC properly dismissed the case since it appears that there was no
initial valuation yet made by the DARAB.
Respondents, however, argue that the CA Decision dated May 30, 2002 is already
nal and executory due to petitioners' failure to seasonably le a motion for
reconsideration. Respondents also argue, among others, that the applicable law in
this case is P.D. No. 27 and E.O. No. 228, which provides for the formula for the
determination of just compensation, as recognized in the cases of Land Bank of the
Philippines v. Court of Appeals, 378 Phil. 1248 (1999), and Gabatin v. Land Bank of
the Philippines, G.R. No. 148223, November 25, 2004, 444 SCRA 176.

The Courts finds merit in the petition.


It is true that petitioners' failure to le their motion for reconsideration within the
reglementary period rendered the CA Decision dated May 30, 2002 nal and
executory. For all intents and purposes, said Decision should now be immutable and
unalterable; however, the Court relaxes this rule in order to serve substantial
justice considering (a) matters of life, liberty, honor or property, (b) the existence of
special or compelling circumstances, (c) the merits of the case, (d) a cause not
entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the
suspension of the rules, (e) a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely
frivolous and dilatory, and (f) the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced
thereby. 21
The explanation of petitioners' counsel for the delayed ling of the motion for
reconsideration was that their law rm secretary failed to inform the court of their
change of address. 22 This, of course, is not a valid excuse. As a general rule, a client
is bound by the acts of his counsel, including even the latter's mistakes and
negligence. But where such mistake or neglect would result in serious injustice to
the client, a departure from this rule is warranted. To cling to the general rule is to
condone rather than rectify a serious injustice to petitioners whose only fault was to
repose his faith and entrust his innocence to his lawyer. 23
In Ginete v. Court of Appeals, 24 the Court disregarded the failure of the petitioners
to le a motion for reconsideration of the CA's dismissal, and instead, ruled that
their counsel's negligence should not prejudice the merits of their case, as they
were bound to lose their alleged rightful share in their inheritance to a 59-hectare
property.
I n Philippine Ports Authority v. Sargasso Construction & Development Corp ., 25 the
Court excused the Oce of the Government Corporate Counsel's belated ling of
the notice of appeal because sustaining the nality of the CA's dismissal of the
appeal would leave the petitioner no other remedy to assail the decision of the trial
court, and it would then have to implement the award of the reclamation project to
the respondents for the enhancement of the San Fernando, La Union port for the
price of P30,794,230.89 without the benet of a public bidding, and sans the
approval of its Board of Directors.
After reviewing the records of this case, the Court resolves to give due course to the
case in order to put to rest the issues herein presented, specially in light of the
Court's ruling in Solmayor v. Arroyo, 26 to wit:
Furthermore, we must bear in mind that procedural rules are intended to
ensure the proper administration of law and justice. The rules of procedure
ought not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense, for they are adopted
to help secure, not override, substantial justice. A deviation from its rigid
enforcement may thus be allowed to attain its prime objective, for after all,
the dispensation of justice is the core reason for the existence of courts.
Moreover, we cannot shy away from our constitutionally mandated

duty to questions of law set forth in this petition which hinges on


the determination of the rights of herein litigants in the light of a
very important piece of social legislation, Presidential Decree No.
27, which aims for the equitable distribution and ownership of
land, without disregarding the property rights of landowners. Thus,
for pragmatic reasons and consideration of justice and equity, the Court
must put to rest the issues presented before us. (Emphasis supplied)

If the Court sustains the CA Decision, which armed the RTC Decision, petitioners
will be left holding an empty bag, so to speak. It should be noted that the property
subject of this case has already been distributed to the farmer-beneciaries way
back in 1972, and up to now, 34 years later, petitioners have yet to enjoy the fruits
of its value. Moreover, petitioners will be left without any recourse as regards the
resolution of the issue of just compensation since both the RTC and the DARAB
already dismissed the separate complaints for just compensation led before them.
Indeed, the "Court has the power to except a particular case from the operation of
the rule whenever the purposes of justice requires it because what should guide
judicial action is that a party is given the fullest opportunity to establish the merits
of his action or defense rather than for him to lose life, honor, or property on mere
technicalities." 27
On the propriety of the ling of a motion for judgment on the pleadings by the LBP
and adopted by the DAR Secretary the Court nds that the CA erred in sustaining
its propriety.
Rule 34, Section 1 of the Rules of Court, 28 provides that a judgment on the
pleadings is proper when an answer fails to render an issue or otherwise admits the
material allegations of the adverse party's pleading. The essential question is
whether there are issues generated by the pleadings. A judgment on the pleadings
may be sought only by a claimant, who is the party seeking to recover upon a claim,
counterclaim or cross-claim; or to obtain a declaratory relief. 29
In this case, the separate Answers led by the respondents denitely tendered
issues, as it made specic denials of the material allegations in the complaint and
asserted armative defenses, which would bar recovery by petitioners. Moreover, it
was erroneous for the RTC to require the ling of a motion for judgment on the
pleadings and for the LBP and the DAR Secretary to le the same since in the rst
place, the latter are neither plaintis in the case nor counter-claimants or crossclaimants.
What the RTC obviously meant to be led was a motion for summary judgment, a
procedural device designed for the prompt disposition of actions, which may be
rendered if the pleadings, supporting adavits, depositions and admissions on le
show that, after a summary hearing, there is no genuine issue regarding any
material fact, except as to the amount of damages, and the moving party is entitled
to a judgment as a matter of law, and which may be applied for by either a claimant
or a defending party. 30 This is obvious from the fact that although the Answers
raised issues, these were not factual ones requiring trial, nor were they genuine
issues, 31 as the parties were able to agree to limit the same to whether petitioners

are entitled to just compensation under R.A. No. 6657 and not P.D. No. 27. 32
The Court also nds that the CA erred in sustaining the RTC ruling that just
compensation in this case should be based on the value of the property at the time
of taking, October 21, 1972, which is the effectivity date of P.D. No. 27.
Respondent correctly cited the case of Gabatin v. Land Bank of the Philippines, 33
where the Court ruled that "in computing the just compensation for expropriation
proceedings, it is the value of the land at the time of the taking [or October 21,
1972, the eectivity date of P.D. No. 27], not at the time of the rendition of
judgment, which should be taken into consideration." Under P.D. No. 27 and E.O.
No. 228, the following formula is used to compute the land value for palay:
LV (land value) = 2.5 x AGP x GSP x (1.06)n
It should also be pointed out, however, that in the more recent case of Land Bank of
the Philippines vs. Natividad, 34 the Court categorically ruled: "the seizure of the
landholding did not take place on the date of eectivity of P.D. No. 27 but would
take eect on the payment of just compensation." Under Section 17 of R.A. No.
6657, the following factors are considered in determining just compensation, to wit:
Sec. 17.
Determination of Just Compensation. In determining just
compensation, the cost of acquisition of the land, the current value
of like properties, its nature, actual use and income, the sworn
valuation by the owner, the tax declarations, and the assessment
made by government assessors shall be considered: The social and
economic benets contributed by the farmers and the farmworkers and by the Government to the property as well as the
non-payment of taxes or loans secured from any government
nancing institution on the said land shall be considered as additional
factors to determine its valuation. (Emphasis supplied)
SCaDAE

Consequently, the question that arises is which of these two rulings should be
applied?
Under the circumstances of this case, the Court deems it more equitable to apply
the ruling in the Natividad case. In said case, the Court applied the provisions of R.A.
No. 6657 in computing just compensation for property expropriated under P.D. No.
27, stating, viz.:
Land Bank's contention that the property was acquired for purposes of
agrarian reform on October 21, 1972, the time of the eectivity of PD 27,
ergo just compensation should be based on the value of the property as of
that time and not at the time of possession in 1993, is likewise erroneous. In
Oce of the President, Malacaang, Manila v. Court of Appeals , we ruled
that the seizure of the landholding did not take place on the date of
eectivity of PD 27 but would take eect on the payment of just
compensation.
Under the factual circumstances of this case, the agrarian reform

process is still incomplete as the just compensation to be paid


private respondents has yet to be settled. Considering the
passage of Republic Act No. 6657 (RA 6657) before the completion
of this process, the just compensation should be determined and
the process concluded under the said law. Indeed, RA 6657 is the
applicable law, with PD 27 and EO 228 having only suppletory
effect, conformably with our ruling in Paris v. Alfeche.
xxx xxx xxx
It would certainly be inequitable to determine just compensation based on
the guideline provided by PD 27 and EO 228 considering the DAR's failure to
determine the just compensation for a considerable length of time. That just
compensation should be determined in accordance with RA 6657, and not
PD 27 or EO 228, is especially imperative considering that just compensation
should be the full and fair equivalent of the property taken from its owner by
the expropriator, the equivalent being real, substantial, full and ample.
In this case, the trial court arrived at the just compensation due private
respondents for their property, taking into account its nature as irrigated
land, location along the highway, market value, assessor's value and the
volume and value of its produce. This Court is convinced that the trial court
correctly determined the amount of just compensation due private
respondents in accordance with, and guided by, RA 6657 and existing
jurisprudence. 35 (Emphasis supplied)

As previously noted, the property was expropriated under the Operation Land
Transfer scheme of P.D. No. 27 way back in 1972. More than 30 years have passed
and petitioners are yet to benet from it, while the farmer-beneciaries have
already been harvesting its produce for the longest time. Events have rendered the
applicability of P.D. No. 27 inequitable. Thus, the provisions of R.A. No. 6657 should
apply in this case.
Finally, the Court sustains petitioners' contention that the CA erred in ruling that
the RTC correctly dismissed their complaint. Even assuming that the RTC was
correct in holding that P.D. No. 27 applies, still it should not have simply dismissed
the complaint after resolving the issue of which law should apply. Instead, it should
have proceeded to determine the just compensation due to petitioners.
Records show that the complaint for just compensation was rst led in the RTC,
but this was dismissed in the Order dated June 22, 1994, for the reason that the
determination of just compensation must rst be led with the DAR. 36
Conformably with said ruling, petitioners led the complaint with the DAR, which
dismissed the same on the ground that it has no jurisdiction to hear and decide
valuation cases covered by P.D. No. 27. 37 Because of said dismissal, petitioners
went back to the RTC for the re-opening of the case. Petitioners' case was obviously
thrown back and forth between the two venues, and with the RTC's second
dismissal, they were left hanging and without any recourse, which, of course, is
iniquitous considering that their property has already long been expropriated by the
government and its fruits enjoyed by the farmer-beneficiaries.

Given the foregoing conclusion, this case should then be remanded to the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) of Bulacan, Branch 13, for the nal determination of just
compensation.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated May 30, 2002 and
Resolution dated December 9, 2002 rendered by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV
No. 60355 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The records of this case is ordered
REMANDED to Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bulacan, Branch 13, for further
proceedings with deliberate dispatch and in accordance with the Court's discussion
in this Decision.
DcICEa

No costs.
SO ORDERED.

Panganiban, C.J., Ynares-Santiago, Callejo, Sr. and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.


Footnotes
1.

Records, pp. 10-11.

2.

Id. at 21.

3.

Id. at 45-47.

4.

Id. at 51-52.

5.

Id. at 67-68.

6.

Id. at 106.

7.

Id. at 137.

8.

Id. at 156-157.

9.

Id. at 144-145.

10.

Id. at 177.

11.

Id. at 200.

12.

Id. at 201.

13.

Id. at 228.

14.

Id. at 247.

15.

Id.

16.

Penned by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales (now a Member of this


Court), with Associate Justices Martin S. Villarama, Jr. and Mariano C. Del Castillo,

concurring.
17.

CA rollo, p. 104.

18.

Id. at 158.

19.

Rollo, p. 17.

20.

Id. at 18.

21.
22.
23.

Barnes v. Padilla , G.R. No. 160753, September 30, 2004, 439 SCRA 675, 686687.
CA rollo, pp. 124-125.

Elcee Farms, Inc. v. Semillano , G.R. No. 150286, October 17, 2003, 413 SCRA
669, 678.

24.

357 Phil. 36 (1998).

25.

G.R. No. 146478, July 30, 2004, 435 SCRA 512.

26.

G.R. No. 153817, March 31, 2006, 486 SCRA 431.

27.

Philippine Commercial and International Bank v. Cabrera, G.R. No. 160368, March
31, 2005, 454 SCRA 792, 801.

28.

Formerly Rule 19, Section 1 of the Rules of Court.

29.

Garcia v. Llamas , G.R. No. 154127, December 8, 2003, 417 SCRA 292.

30.

RULES OF COURT, Rule 35, Secs. 1 and 2, formerly Rule 34, Secs. 1 and 2.

31.

Wood Technology Corporation v. Equitable Banking Corporation , G.R. No.


153867, February 17, 2005, 451 SCRA 724.

32.

Records, p. 247, Order dated August 14, 1997.

33.

G.R. No. 148223, November 25, 2004, 444 SCRA 176.

34.

G.R. No. 127198, May 16, 2005, 458 SCRA 441.

35.

Land Bank of the Philippines v. Natividad, supra at 451-453.

36.

Records, p. 106.

37.

The Court subsequently ruled in Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals ,
G.R. No. 128557, December 29, 1999, that: "It seems that the Secretary of
Agrarian Reform erred in issuing Memorandum Circular No. I, Series of 1995,
directing the DARAB to refrain from hearing valuation cases involving PD 27 lands.
For on the contrary, it is the DARAB which has the authority to determine the initial
valuation of lands involving agrarian reform although such valuation may only be
considered preliminary as the nal determination of just compensation is vested in

the courts."